2016 Wrap-up and End of Year Sale

Hi there, everybody! You procrastinated, and we heard you! Somehow. Does procrastination make a sound? I suppose it sounds like a TV turning on, or a muffled shudder from a pile of blankets. Hey, we get it. In the spirit of slacker empathy we present our Portal End of Year Sale! Here’s how it works:

Friday, December 23rd, from 11am to 11pm, Saturday, December 24th, from 11am to 5pm, AND even on Monday, December 26th, from 11am to 9pm (because who doesn’t rush right out to spend all of their gift cards and holiday cash?), we will be offering the following sales in the shop:

All board games, card games (excluding Magic singles), roleplaying games, and miniatures/wargames (excluding singles) are 20% off!

All discounted board games and miniatures are BUY THREE, THE CHEAPEST IS FREE!

All comic book trade paperbacks and graphic novels (softcover AND hardcover) are 40% off!

All Wizkids Heroclix and Dicemasters products are 40% off!

All mats (card game playmats, rpg grid mats, Star Wars mats, Guild Ball mats, and wargaming mats) are 30% off!

SPECIALS: Blood Bowl starter sets and Magic Planechase Anthology box sets are 30% off!

It’s that time again, that you either eagerly anticipate, or are completely over. No, I’m not talking about holiday stuff. I’m talking about year-end ‘best of’ lists. This was an insane year for quality comic books and games, and I just can’t help myself. I need to share. So bear with me, because here comes:

JARED’S COMIC BOOK AND GAME TOP TEN OF 2016

As always I need to preface this by saying that try as I might, I have not read all of the comics and played all of the games. So this is based on what I got to this year. To qualify for the list, they had to be new (so no spinoffs, no expansions, no older ongoing series) and had to be released in the US this year (so some games may have appeared last year elsewhere). Now, let’s do this.

COMIC BOOKS

10. Faith- Valiant’s Harbinger was one of the greatest superhero team books ever to hit the shelves, and the character of Faith (also known as Zephyr) was a standout thanks to her boundless optimism and unabashed love of geek culture, and that carries over to her new solo title. It’s a fun palate cleanser, month after month.

9. Champions- When this Marvel book was announced, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. But it’s a collection of great characters like Miles Morales, Kamala Khan, and Amadeus Cho, and it’s written by the legendary Mark Waid and drawn by Humberto Ramos, so I couldn’t stay away. I’m glad I gave it a shot. It’s full of exuberance and teen drama that doesn’t come off as cheesy, and it tackles a lot of big picture issues.

8. Green Valley- This comic is basically what happens when Max Landis comes to Image with a head full of Dungeons & Dragons fantasy, ready to throw you a major curveball by the conclusion of each issue. This is a story that is never quite what you think, and one I now eagerly anticipate each month.

7. Glitterbomb- I love the righteous anger of this book. I’ve not really seen a comic so nakedly talk about how the Hollywood system chews up, abuses, and spits out young actresses, leaving them broken and empty vessels that can easily be filled with bitterness and rage (or in this case, destructive demonic creatures), and though you suspect it won’t end well for anyone involved, the end of this first arc was a complete jawdropper.

6. Animosity- Aftershock is a fledgling comic publisher that’s making big waves, and this book is the jewel in its shiny new crown. Marguerite Bennett and company tell the story of an event on Earth where all of the animals suddenly ‘wake up’ and have human-level intelligence, and they have not forgotten what we have done to them. I jokingly refer to it as a vegan revenge fantasy, but it goes a lot deeper than that.

5. The Black Monday Murders- Jonathan Hickman has made an indelible mark on comics with his unique style, which is always a grand, sweeping concept that’s executed with the details-oriented precision of a graphic designer, and in his latest comic it involves frightening levels of accumulated power, channeled through the globe through ritualistic economics.

4. Moon Knight- Marvel’s exceptionally eccentric vigilante has had his ups and downs over the years, but somehow Jeff Lemire has taken all that madness and tied it all together with a stark white bow on top. All that, AND he compassionately and stylistically addresses Marc Spector’s mental illness in ways you have to see to fully appreciate.

3. Doom Patrol- True 90s-era Vertigo style weirdness is back, and it’s all thanks to Gerard Way, and his new Young Animal imprint. This book could only be the product of someone who is a student of Grant Morrison, with an appreciation for his reality-busting take on the characters nearly thirty years ago. You need to stick with it once you’ve entered its world, because it’s a slow, surreal burn.

2. Seven to Eternity- If it’s punk rock Science Fiction that you’re after, no one delivers it like Rick Remender. Fresh off of the amazing Tokyo Ghost, his new title is a bleak journey that gets to the heart of corruption and compromise, with weathered alien characters risking everything to fight back in a world oppressed by a tyrant’s whispers.

1. The Fix- It’s actually a trick that very few can pull off, creating a satire where everything is turned up to 11, so grossly absurd that the audience can’t help but laugh through their shock the whole time. Nick Spencer and his accomplices have managed to do just that, because there is clearly a need out there for stories about corrupt detectives, hipster crime bosses, bumbling homeless drug addicts, and heroic dogs named Pretzels. This is a book you’ll be running off to tell all of your friends about, a condition commonly known as ‘Preacher Syndrome’.

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GAMES

10. Fight For Olympus- There has been a huge surge in 2-player only games in recent years, and Mayfair has been at the forefront of it. Olympus is like a crash course in balanced card game design, with a neat little Greek mythology theme. There’s an area for victory points, one for card draw, and one for resources, and the cards get placed at them and then are forced into a brutal back-and-forth war of attrition.

9. Lotus- I pitch this to people as the new Splendor, and I am serious about that. This is a beautiful filler game that uses the cards as petals of a flower, scoring you points when you complete them and have contributed the most to their growth. There’s even little insect meeples and unlockable powers. This one is a pure joy to play. It’s just so satisfying and addictive.

8. Onitama- If you have a love for abstract strategy games like I do, this one is a must-own. It’s very chess-like in its execution, but loaded with replayability thanks to the cards which dictate the limited number of moves your pieces can make each game. The watercolor artwork is stunning, the components are eye-catching, and it all comes in a handy custom storage case.

7. Mystic Vale- I have to admit, lately I’ve been burned out on deckbuilding games. All too often they’ve been simple re-skins of Dominion that bring nothing new to the table. Mystic Vale brings the new in the form of clear plastic Gloom-style cards that allow you to actually build the cards that you’re constructing your deck out of, one on top of the other in big tarot size sleeve. There’s a little bit of press your luck to each turn, and the druid theme is a welcome change of pace, too.

6. Potion Explosion- This game has marbles. MARBLES. I could end my description there and most people would check this out. But there’s more to say about Potion Explosion. You construct a box that spits the marbles down little chutes, and you get to collect them when you line up a series of the same color, sort of like a board game version of Bejeweled. And then you use them to brew potions for points, which you can also use for special abilities. It’s the perfect board game for those of us who never completely grew up, and I mean that in the best possible way.

5. Quadropolis- I know to a lot of folks that describing a game as city-building and tile-drafting will ruin any chance you have of convincing them to play it with you, but in this game it’s so much more fun and engaging than it sounds. It’s a personal puzzle, but you have to interact with your opponents while you solve it. And the production values on this thing are top notch. After playing it, I genuinely wondered why more games don’t use translucent plastic meeples.

4. Clank!- The unthinkable has happened: There are TWO deckbuilding games on this list. So what makes Clank stand out so much? It’s combined with a dungeon crawl AND a press your luck ‘noise’ mechanism that can result in you waking a dragon and getting roasted while you race your opponents through the catacombs, collecting as many goodies as you can carry. It’s probably the best mash-up game I’ve seen in a very long time.

3. Scythe- If you’ve played other Stonemaier games, you know a bit of what you can expect here: unique worker placement, fun bits and pieces, and a one-of-a-kind theme, all wrapped in artwork that is a conversation starter all on its own. What Scythe does is mix that up with a kind of Ameritrash area control, complete with Cool Mini-esque miniatures that you just want to paint up right away and a customizable player board with all sorts of abilities and victory points to unlock. It supports play for up to 7 people, too!

2. Kanagawa- For me, there can never be enough games like Tokaido–games that are striking and elegant and just plain CHILL. Kanagawa checks all those boxes, and does it through a unique drafting system that gives you dual-use cards which you’ll place in your tableau in order to make breathtaking art prints for victory points. This is a game that makes a very strong impression, and holds up after multiple plays.

1. The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire- This series from Minion Games has been fantastic, whether it’s the original worker placement game, the combo-building card game, or this new nation-building iteration. In Energy Empire you control a growing nation, but rather than military or tech advancement, the focus here is on the energy–what types you’ll invest in, what they’ll allow you to accomplish, and (here comes the best part) what you’ll choose to do about the resultant pollution to the land, sea, and air. It’s a new high point in Euro-style mechanics, with gameplay that’s smooth and components that are tons of fun to play with.

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There you have it. 2016 might have been a raging poop tornado in a lot of ways, but in our corner of the world it was glorious.

As we move into a new year, all of us here at The Portal want to sincerely thank you all for shopping, gaming, and shooting the breeze with us. This is why we’re here, and it all happens because of your support. There are big plans on the horizon, so be well, have fun out there, and we’ll see you in 2017.

 

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